Since his divorce, little over a year ago, Jack finds many ways to take up the hours he used to spend trying to avoid his family. Besides his full-time job, he also has a part-time job to help fill the time and the extra money doesn’t hurt since he’s now faced with another thirteen years of child support. On the Saturdays that he has his kids he usually goes to his mother’s house. There he is surrounded by family. His sister lives there with her boyfriend and their two kids. His brother, also a recent divorcee is often there with his four children. Jack’s mother, Jillian always cooks a big dinner for everyone in between her doting on all of her grand-children. Jack watches his mother sometimes in her interactions with her grand-kids, he can’t remember her being any happier than when she is looking into the face of one of her “angels.” Jack and his brother can usually be found sprawled out under a sink or hanging drywall or hunched over the hood of Jillian’s old car. The house was a fixer-upper when she and her husband bought it. It was still a fixer-upper when he left. You couldn’t say he never left her anything, the house, the kids, the dog, the old beater of a car, not to mention all the bills and mounting debt. She never bothered looking for him, she always said “what would be the point?”
Sundays with his kids are spent at the park or the zoo or museum or anywhere he can take them for free or at a discount. Jack enjoys these days the most, just him and his two children. He feels like he can only truly be himself when he is with his kids. He makes silly faces and sings funny songs with his daughter and he talks very seriously with his son about the shapes of clouds and their origins or destinations and how far they may travel before breaking into smaller pieces and what those shapes might turn out to be.
On the opposite Saturdays, if he doesn’t have to work his second job, he spends all day cleaning his tiny apartment while watching whatever sport is in season. In the evenings he turns on the classic jazz station, dims the lights and opens a cheap bottle of Merlot. The rest of his night is spent staring at a blank word document on his computer screen until his six- dollar wine is gone. The computer is the only thing his wife, Vanessa let him keep when she left. His writing being the main reason (at least in his mind) he is now divorced. Vanessa claimed she didn’t have a husband, she had a roommate. He would say that she just didn’t understand. All the time he spent “scribbling” in notebooks and “playing” on the computer was for them. Once he sold his book she could quit working and pursue whatever her passion may be if only she could find one. Finally after about two years or more of arguing over the same thing, Vanessa had had enough. One day Jack came home from work to find his computer in a box near the door. He could take a hint. He grabbed the box and turned around and walked out the door. Six months later, he was divorced.
Sundays without his kids, Jack wakes early, often with a headache and puts on a pot of coffee. After the first cup, he walks down the street to get cigarettes and the Sunday paper, early edition (he hates all the coupons and sales ads that always fall out on the walk home.) He likes the Sunday paper, the weight of it in his hands makes him feel as if he would be accomplishing something that day. He sits at the pub table in what his old, Russian landlady calls a “keetchenette,” slowly draining the pot of coffee and reading the entire paper, not skipping any article, no matter the subject. By now he has the names and e-mails of all the various reporters and columnists committed to memory. This will come in handy if he ever gets around to responding to any of the articles he either agrees with whole- heartedly or vehemently opposes. Luckily his lack of motivation keeps him from becoming the guy who responds to everything, usually just to see their own name in the paper. By the time he finishes the paper, it’s usually around noon and he takes great satisfaction in knowing the day is half over.
It is during this ritual that he makes the discovery of a classmate’s recent death. Kevin Wilkowski was not necessarily a friend but he was a guy he knew. It is shocking not only to see someone so young, but someone he knew staring back at him in black and white from the pages of the obituaries. A brief little passage remembering those he is leaving behind, followed by perhaps his greatest accomplishment in life; class of ’89 Vincent High School in quotations. All of this is under what Jack is sure looked like a school picture. He thinks about how sad it is to use your senior picture in a death notice, realizing for the first time that all of the pictures were probably from each person’s happiest times. Jack wonders how these people would feel knowing that probably the one shining moment in their life was being used to let the world know that they were now dead.
That Sunday, Jack goes to his mother’s house in an effort to dig up his old yearbook, he can’t remember seeing it since graduation. He wonders to himself why he never kept in touch with anyone from school, finally settling on the idea that he was all too happy to leave it all behind. Its funny how it seemed like such a living hell at the time but in looking back over the past fifteen years, he seemed to be at his happiest then. He finds the yearbook stuffed in a box with some little league trophies and a cub scout badge that never made it onto his uniform. It creaks when he opens it the way some of his text books did when he returned them to the bookstore. The yearbook is filled with signatures and outdated passages, letting him know that at one time he did have quite a few friends.
As he continues perusing the faux leather- bound tome, he realizes there is not one single picture of him inside. He forgot that he never submitted a senior picture. He is also noticeably absent from all of the clubs, groups and teams that many of his friends belonged to. A fear starts to well up inside of him of being completely forgotten. Reading on, he notices a pattern to all of the scribbling in the margins and blank pages reserved for adolescent graffiti. It seems he would be remembered after all, to Jack’s regret though it would be as the kid who slept through senior year. Nearly every signing from his peers in different classes referred to this phenomenon. He didn’t remember being so tired, but he did recall many of his classmate’s surprise to see him walk across the stage that June. Closing the book, he decides to go to Kevin’s funeral, convincing himself that it was to honor a fallen classmate but knowing in his heart that it was to show his old friends that may be there that he no longer sleeps through life. He wants to show them pictures of his kids, maybe bring some of his writing along. He needs them to know that he has done something with his life since they had all parted ways.
To be continued…